A northern heritage fund

From having followed the Ring of Fire story over the last year, I believe that it is clear that the province is not negotiating effectively on its citizens’ behalf — and I would like to support The Chronicle-Journal’s editorial of Oct. 19 (Two Approaches to Northern Mines). However, with respect to your stance on mining negotiations with the province, I would suggest that The Chronicle-Journal go two steps further. First, I’d urge you to advocate for full environmental hearings; and secondly, for a Northern Heritage Fund.

Certainly, as long as the minerals stay in the ground, they’re ours. And with growing demand for them in the global marketplace, the province should be negotiating from that strength.

But environmentally, and as to where Cliffs should locate its chromite smelter, I’m not so sure. Keep in mind that chromium is a known carcinogen that has never been mined or processed before in Canada. In fact, provincial environmental assessments for the mining, transportation, and processing of chromite have not yet been done — despite the fact that Environment Canada has warned of the potential adverse effects of Ring of Fire mining waste, including chromium-6.

No wonder that First Nations in the area and the Wildlands League are calling for a Joint Federal and Provincial Panel Review (JRP), which essentially are full public hearings into these matters. So, perhaps, let’s reserve judgment on the whole subject until project-specific JRPs are done.

As well, when discussing the relative merits of royalties and infrastructure subsidies between Ontario and Quebec, I believe you have missed a very important ‘northern’ point.

While $135 billion in mining development and 22,000 jobs might sound enticing, I can’t help but wonder why the province hasn’t even considered a type of heritage fund to offset our typical boom-and-bust economy. It’s about time!

In the long run when the resources have been depleted, and when the tax base shrinks (as currently in Dryden), and finally, when we’re faced with yet anther toxic waste site — what will the province do for us? Probably raise our taxes. Let’s re-write that old story.

Wouldn’t you agree that before the mining contracts are announced, the Ontario government should exact such terms as Joint Review Panels and a Northern Heritage Fund? Less than that just plays into the hands of the corporations, many of whom are foreign (like Cliffs), and only too happy to take the profits and run.

Peter Lang